Las Vegas Sun

May 4, 2015

Currently: 75° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

democratic national convention:

Could an Obama re-election break D.C. gridlock?



President Barack Obama addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

President Barack Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- President Barack Obama addressed the country like brothers-in-arms Thursday night, urging voters to re-elect him to a second term with the assurance that “our problems can be solved” and “our challenges can be met.”

“I’m asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country,” Obama said. “Goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security and the deficit; a real, achievable plan that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation.”

“Yes, our path is harder,” Obama said, “but it leads to a better place.”

That, in a nutshell, was Obama’s pitch for the next four years of his presidency.

Yet if he wins, there’s no guarantee he’ll have enough of a mandate to realize his plan.

Democrats will be the first to say that Republican obstructionism in Congress has been the greatest hurdle to an economic recovery.

“If the Republicans would get out of our way we would create some jobs,” said Harry Reid, the majority leader in the Senate.

But by the numbers, it looks like gridlock is going to be here to stay.

Even if Democrats are able to retain the Senate, they are likely to have a much smaller margin of leadership than their already paltry six-vote lead, which isn’t enough to circumvent blocks or avoid filibusters. There’s no polling to suggest that the House can be wrested away from Republican control in this election either.

“Those Republicans aren’t going to roll over and automatically give the agenda to the president,” said Terry Madonna, director of Franklin & Marshall College’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs. “That’s not going to happen.”

Obama’s advisers believe otherwise.

“After the president wins this election, the other side will have to stop their continual efforts to stop him from getting anything done,” said Jim Messina, director of Obama’s 2012 campaign. “Some of the fever will disappear as the other side understands there is a mandate to work together.”

“When the president wins and we hold the Senate, then the dynamic changes, the political environment changes,” said Pete Rouse, a counselor and former chief of staff to Obama in the White House. “The big issue here is that Republicans had a strategy of blocking the president’s agenda ... I don’t think that the Republicans in Congress will be able to continue their strategy of just blocking everything.”

Since the Republicans won a majority in the House and narrowed a wide Senate Democratic supermajority in the Tea Party-dominated election of 2010, Congress has been a difficult place to get anything done.

In the first two years of the Obama presidency, Congress and the White House aggressively knocked out legislation — a domestic agenda described by Democrats as the most comprehensive of any the country had seen since the Great Society years. They passed a stimulus bill, an auto industry bailout, pay equity legislation and a health care overhaul.

Obama recalled some of his successes in his convention speech Thursday.

“I’ve met workers in Detroit and Toledo who feared they’d never build another American car,” Obama said. “Today they can’t build them fast enough, because we reinvented a dying auto industry that’s back on top of the world.”

But he shied away from mentioning some of the more controversial achievements, referring obliquely to health care but uttering not a word in celebration of the Affordable Care Act, and steering clear of the word “stimulus” entirely.

After 2010, Obama’s productivity slowed as the climate in Congress changed.

Click to enlarge photo

First lady Michelle Obama applauds with her daughter Sasha during President Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012.

Obama started off the second half of his presidency trying to work across the aisle. But his efforts to reach out to Republican leaders in Washington ran aground during the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, after his administration accused House Speaker John Boehner of breaking faith with him in negotiations to steer the country back from the brink of financial default.

By the end of 2011, he had shed his previous guise of conciliator-in-chief, directly and publicly blaming the Republican Party for holding up a deal on a payroll tax cut.

In Thursday night’s speech, he was openly ridiculing the Republicans’ fiscal position.

“Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another,” Obama said. “Feel a cold in the morning? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning.”

That applause line got laughs, and may even win him a few votes. But it isn’t likely to earn him any warm feelings from the Republicans he’ll still have to work with if he wins.

“Once a president hits his second term, he starts thinking more about his legacy. And in order to create and hold a legacy, you need to have accomplishments,” said Robert Uithoven, a Republican strategist based in Nevada. “To do that, you need to reach across the aisle. That’s something he hasn’t done in the last two years.”

But that is a decidedly Republican outlook on the gridlock in Washington.

“The Republican strategy, articulated by Mitch McConnell [the Republican leader in the Senate], was ‘our goal is to make him a one-term president,’” said Eric Herzik, political science professor at UNR, who is also a registered Republican.

But if Obama wins a second term, simply waiting it out with the same uncompromising attitude isn’t really an option, Herzik continued. “I don’t think the American people are going to be too accepting of that,” he said. “I think it’s pretty clear that the American people are going to say: ‘Get something done.’”

In his speech Thursday night, Obama seemed to have the goal of a mandate in mind as he strove to enlist the audience as partners in his re-election crusade.

“The election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you,” Obama said. “If you turn away now, if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible, well, change will not happen.

“We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon,” he said.

In other words, vote in November, and then join me in the long term to change the rules of the game.

Obama’s advisers are convinced that if Obama is re-elected, he can compel others, even those who lately have been opposing him, to join him in advancing his agenda — at least on the big issues.

“I think Speaker Boehner would like to be his partner,” Rouse said. “That doesn’t mean that (Republicans) are going to (cross the aisle) and everything’s going to be straight right away. They’re tough negotiators, they have strong beliefs, they have strong philosophy. But I do think they will need to come to the table and say everything’s gotta be on the table for deficit reduction.”

“I do think the winner’s going to have a mandate,” said Robert Gibbs, senior adviser to Obama’s campaign. “Not to get everything done … but I think you have a mandate for understanding, for instance, that when Barack Obama wins, we have to then put aside the notion of we can’t raise taxes on people that make a million dollars.”

Their outlook may be overly optimistic.

“We’ve lost the bipartisan willingness to try middle ground. There’s nothing in this election so far that suggests it’s going to be changed dramatically in Washington,” said Fred Lokken, political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College. “Unless something finally fixes our partisanship problem, neither (Obama nor Romney) are poised to be successful (as president).”

But if the Obama shop’s optimism sounds like the “hope and change” rhetoric Republicans have ridiculed as being unsuccessful, it’s for one reason: The president clearly hasn’t abandoned the idea.

“The times have changed — and so have I. I’m no longer just a candidate, I’m the president,” Obama said. “But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America.

“I’m hopeful because of you,” he continued. “Ours is a ‘future filled with hope.’ And if you share that faith with me — if you share that hope with me — I ask you tonight for your vote.”

Anjeanette Damon contributed to this story.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 16 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. judgesmales:

    Wow!! Hate people much? Yeah, people like you are going to make America great again......

  2. to answer the headline: NO.

  3. The re-election of President Barack Obama will "help" break the gridlock. What's needed to guarantee a break in gridlock is a change in the House of Representatives.

    This country would have more jobs and the economy would be better off had the House of Representative passed many of President Obama jobs request. The economy is getting better without the help of the House. Commonsense tells us if the House was doing their job in representing their districts the country would be better off. The House has not helped America! This is the worst Congress of all time! Senator McConnell and Rep. Boehner have done the country a disservice with their action in directing Republican members in blocking anything the President proposes. The gridlock is not just coming from the two top Republicans, but special interest has a huge hand in directing new House Republican members in forcing out old congressional Republicans who have voted in the pass on items of interest to the country such as, road and highway projects. The campaign of the New Republicans: The Extreme the Better!

    We need new House members, Period! Because, "if" Romney were to win, the Democrats would use the same tactics the Republican used on Obama. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are not the solution for America base on their policies and the message being sent out from them and the Republican party.

    Don't forget, we have millionaires giving 5 and 10 million dollars campaign donations to Superpacs and Non-Porfits to oppose President Obama. These people want something , what they want is not good for America!

  4. ....@judgesmales.........are you the voice of The New Republican Party?

    This is what we are talking about! Not only gridlock but extreme, very extreme talk. This is not what America is about!

  5. Vegan,

    Spending any energy believing Smales is the "voice of The New Republican Party" is a non-starter. It would be like believing mred is the voice of the new Democrat Party. Please do not allow outliers to define the whole.

    It is a wrong-headed way to analyze policies and it will lead to mistakes on your part. My suggestion is not to do it.


  6. When has Obama ever "worked with the other side?" NEVER.

    Romney has as Governor and he has been effective. Why was this ignored in your story? You are ignoring the history of the two men to fulfill your agenda of "Love Obama."

    If you want somebody to "work with the other side," it aint your guy, Obama.

    It really is that simple.

  7. Why did you not mention that Obama's budget was voted down in both Houses by a total vote of 0-414? Democrats hated his budget.

    Paul Ryan's budget got bi-partisan support and was passed in the House, and Dirty Harry wouldn't even let it come to a vote in the Senate because he knows it would've passed there as well.

    And you think Obama will end gridlock? You have delusional love for Obama and it clouds your writing.

  8. Gridlock would be even worse. Pretty clear the liberals are unwilling or unable to see any other frame of reference let alone compromise.

  9. Dear Smartone,

    Based on your comment, you should consider a name change. I have suggestions -- if you wish, I will e.mail them to you.


  10. "Romney has as Governor and he has been effective."

    You mean the flip-flopping governor who was pro-choice and introduced health insurance mandates. Both issues he now has flipped to the extreme teabaggers to gain their vote. As governor he was near last place in job creation and created more debt than any other governor of the state.

    The GOP has become a disgraceful party full of hateful people suffering from selective amnesia. Romney has no morals and is only running to benefit himself not the country. He wants to cut taxes on himself while raising them on the middle class. Romney refuses to honor his father's tradition of releasing 12 years of tax returns. Romney is a bully who at 17 attacked another young adult and cut off his 'girly' hair. Romney was a draft dodger and not a single one of his 5 sons served in the military.

    While I'm not thrilled at another 4 years of Obama; he will get my vote simply because Romney is MUCH worse.

    I am better off than 4 years ago. My IRA has more than doubled and my business has grown considerably.

  11. <<Really, if you can allow yourself to get that angry you've got a lot of problems on your hands. If you are walking around angry, internal/external anger...>>

    And it has absolutely NOTHING to do with politics. They'll still be angry if Romney gets elected. Some people are carrying a lot of baggae and try to disguise it in their political comments. We all agree to disagree a lot of times, but some go way over the line - for no reason. More going on then they will ever admit.

  12. Oops! Meant "baggage".

  13. It is sad to see what the Republican Party has come to, and that they cannot work for the true good of the country.

    Whatever has happened to the party, the only way for real Republicans to come back is to not vote for any of the current extremist Republicans.

    Real Republicans need to see that they are on the losing end as a result of the extremists who have taken control of their party.

    It is bound to happen because the policies that are being proposed by the extremists of the Republican party will definitely effect too many Republicans that are not wealthy, and they will suffer the results just like Democrats.

    There was a time when the American people could vote to balance power between the Executive and Congressional branches. Both parties did work together for the nation. This no longer is the case.

    At this point, the Democrats still remain willing to work with rational Republicans for the benefit of the nation, while the extremist's refuse in an ideological tantrum.

    Extremist Republicans are focusing on getting complete power. That is enough to be a warning to not vote for them. It is a hope skip and a jump for extremists to become dictators.

    The end of obstructionism will come when people decide to not vote for obstructionists.

    Republicans are in more of a battle than the one against the Democrats. They are in a battle for the return of their own party to a rational, viable party that works for the People, able to compromise and cooperate.

    With both parties being in that mode, we can move through the current crisis and become a stronger nation.

    We the voters can reject extremism with our votes, or we can continue to dig our own graves.

    If nothing satisfies the extremist Republicans, then it is time for are real viable third party to launch a full slate of candidates in the next election, so that real Republicans, and maybe some Democrats, can make the jump to a rational option.

    As it is now, the extremist Republicans are destroying the party.

    Interesting how they took over the Republican party, rather than do the hard work of starting their own party, or run as Libertarians. Nice trick! As people wake up to the reality, they will look elsewhere and abandon the extremists.

  14. If the President is re-elected his opposition will dig deeper into the trenches. Obama's opposition in Congress will probably grow after this election. Our country's present policies beginning under W and grossly exacerbated by our present President has put our country under great financial risk. The introduction of QE-4 by Bernanke will lower the value of our currency even further and risk runaway inflation in the next couple years. I'll NOT vote for the President this time. He is significantly Worse than W. So went my hope for change for the better four years ago. Clearly this era of our country reminds me of the political debates of the 1840's and 50's--just different topics. The outcome may be just as tragic.

  15. liljoe and murphyfish,

    Thanks for validating what I wrote.

  16. The same vitriol from both sides. He said/he said, he did/he didn't. There is far more at stake in this election than the economy. The jobs are coming, albeit at a slower than expected pace. Still, 30 months of positive job numbers should be considered. Of course it won't be by the diehards. Anything short of Nirvana is not enough for them. As a social liberal and a fiscal moderate, I am focused on retaining control of the Senate and picking up seats in the house. Obama winning a second term would also please me. Why? Supreme court nominees, for one. There will probably be as many as two in the next four years. Also, Mittens is the "empty suit" candidate. If the economy was the only issue on voter's minds, Mittens should be ahead by plenty; he isn't ahead at all, and the reason is, the base of the GOP has no use for him, personally or politically. I will vote for the President, primarily on social issues; the economy will improve, or it won't. Who's in the white house will not matter, economically, since neither the house or the senate will have veto proof majorities. The times being what they are, we don't need a pandering novice in the white house, or a social neanderthal (RyAYN) whispering in his ear.